The Alamo Colleges is looking for funding from public and private sources.
By Sergio Medina
As soon as fall 2020, high school graduates in Bexar County could have their Alamo Colleges tuition covered completely through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the Alamo Promise program.
The “last-dollar scholarship” through the Alamo Promise program, will cover tuition expenses not covered by FAFSA for graduating high school seniors for a total of two years or 60 credit hours, Chancellor Mike Flores said in an interview Jan. 30.
Only high school seniors enrolled in FAFSA would benefit from by the promise program.
“Our students would have to complete the FAFSA — financial aid application,” he said.
In case a student’s financial aid does not entirely cover tuition for the semester, then the last-dollar scholarship would pay for the remaining balance.
“Last dollar means, if there is a gap — so we’d say it’d cost $2,500, and Pell (Grant) covers $2,000 — then Promise would cover the other $500 and close that gap,” Flores said. “If a student makes too much, or their parents — their household — make too much for Pell (Grant), but they’re still struggling day-to-day to pay tuition, then Promise would cover the full amount of tuition for that student.”
Flores said, “If we just look at 70 percent of graduating high school seniors, so 70 percent of 16,000 — that’s our goal, right? — if they were to participate in Alamo Promise, come to San Antonio College or one of the other colleges, then at full implementation, it would cost $13.5 million.”
He said the district is seeking external resources to fund the program. Ideally, every senior in Bexar County would be covered, but that depends on the funding available, he added.
The goal is for Promise to become a permanent program.
“Right now, we’re talking with the city, the county and private sources to pay for it,” Flores said. “So the money is not coming from our existing budget.”
The goal is to have yearly, continuous support to fund the program, he said.
Students would need a 2.0 GPA to be able to qualify under Promise, he said.
Flores said the purpose of the program is to increase the college-going rate.
“That college-going rate right now is anywhere from 35 percent to 55 percent,” he added.
SA2020, a local nonprofit that tracks community indicators such as college and graduation rates, reported college enrollment in San Antonio sat at 47.1 percent among high school graduates in 2017.
Furthermore, 34.7 percent of adults in San Antonio had a college degree in 2017.
The report can be found at https://report.sa2020.org/education/.
“One out of three San Antonians currently has a college certificate or degree; we need one out of every two San Antonians to have a degree for us to be more competitive in the future,” Flores said.
He said the program would be only for graduating high school seniors in Bexar County.
High school seniors will begin to be recruited as early as September, during the academic year 2019-20.
“So the first students, if we work with the graduating, the high school seniors this ‘19-20 academic year, would come in summer of ‘20 and would start classes in late August of ’20,” Flores said.
During summer 2020, Flores said students would attend boot camps to learn about the six Alamo Institutes, which include creative and communication arts, business and entrepreneurship, health and biosciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics, public service, and science and technology.
For more information on the institutes, go to https://www.alamo.edu/enroll/plan/.
Flores said a competitive community needs educated citizens, and education is one of the main drivers in improving the quality of life, he added.
“Alamo Promise would be a way to ensure that more students come to us,” he said.
Once through college, these students will have better income opportunities to support themselves and their families, he added.
“That’s really the goal of Alamo Promise, to support students by paying tuition — it tells all graduating high school seniors, ‘We believe in you as a community,’” Flores said.